"If the tentative conclusions reached in this study are in the main right, the meaning of manual arts and industries in education is most significant and far reaching. It means that we must thoroughly reorganize our school curricula, elementary, secondary, collegiate; that, instead of spending nearly all of their time sitting at desks, working over books, pupils will spend about half their of their time in some kind of work room, or in gardens or fields; that after pupils have attained a certain maturity, the education system will provide that they may work for pay half the time and pursue academic studies during the other half; that the vast majority will continue in school years longer than they do now; that among the masses of the people in industrial and commercial life there will be a constant rise in intelligence, in physical vigor, in economic efficiency, in prosperity, in moral stamina, in aesthetic interest, and in joy and satisfaction in life."The change that he proposed never came in full measure. The notion of keeping children confined at desks never lost its appeal to those academicians and power brokers who kept them slavishly at it. But there is value still in doing real things, with real outcomes providing real meaning in children's lives.
Turning the tide of American education is a gargantuan task. In the New York City school system alone, there are 1 million students and over 1 million desks to fill. Watching over those 1,000,000 students there are 89,000 "pedagogical positions". Add the custodial staff and administration, and there are 134,000 people to nudge toward a renewed vision of learning in one city alone.
To have students doing real things instead of sitting at desks would require huge changes. It would take more trained staff, conversions of classrooms to work shops, the addition of equipment and new educational model in which the hands are given greater purpose. So, how does one accomplish a gargantuan task?
Start small. We can start with the simple understanding that we learn to greatest lasting effect when we learn hands on. If we can agree on that we can, over time, create more meaningful education.
Make, fix and create...